Timeform preview Saturday's Betfair Ascot Chase and pick out their best bet.
"The shorter trip here is in his favour, and he should get a strong pace which suits his strong-travelling/idle late on style."
Timeform on Politologue
Saturday's Betfair Ascot Chase features several dual winners on its roll call. Monet's Garden (2007 and 2010), Riverside Theatre (2011 and 2012) and Cue Card (2013 and 2017) all won the prize twice, with Cue Card finding only Waiting Patiently too good in last year's renewal as he sought an historic third win in the race (for more trends, check out the 'Decade of the Betfair Ascot Chase' piece).
Big effort expected
Waiting Patiently passed his most demanding test at the time with flying colours that day, putting up a top-class effort, typically travelling well and produced to lead before the last. After connections decided to bide their time, his belated return this season in the King George VI Chase at Kempton won by Clan des Obeaux didn't go to plan, as he was hampered and unseated his rider at the ninth through no fault of his own. He could yet prove to be something out of the ordinary and a big effort is expected, with the race likely to be run to suit as he drops back in trip, thanks to the presence of Charbel and Cyrname.
Not to be discounted
Charbel has a poor record over fences at the Cheltenham Festival, but is a consistent and high-class chaser otherwise. He's been better than ever this season, winning a handicap at Chepstow in October and the Peterborough Chase at Huntingdon (by eight lengths from God's Own) in December. He wasn't quite in the same form - the presence of Speredek seeming to unsettle him, neither travelling nor jumping so well as at Huntingdon - when five and a quarter lengths third of five to Top Notch in a listed event at Kempton last time, but is not to be totally discounted here, with any further drying of the ground in his favour.
The more realistic contender, though, is Cyrname. Despite being hard to train according to his trainer Paul Nicholls ("For the last three months he has settled down enormously; we can train him normally and have finally got rid of the hood), he won three times in 2017/18, including the Wayward Lad Novices' Chase and Pendil Novices' Chase, both at Kempton. He was better than ever when impressively winning the bet365 Handicap Chase over C&D (by 21 lengths from Doitforthevillage) last time. Cyrname did get an easy lead that day, and is back up in grade here, but a repeat of that performance would see him firmly in the mix.
Always been the plan
Paul Nicholls also has another leading contender in the proven Grade 1 performer Politologue, for whom this race has always been the plan. He's a top-class, bold-jumping chaser who won four times in 2017/18, including the Tingle Creek Chase at Sandown and Melling Chase at Aintree (by a neck from Min). He made a fine start to this campaign when winning the 1965 Chase over C&D (by half a length from Charbel) in November - taking his course record to 2/2 - and possibly failed to stay in the King George last time. The shorter trip here is in his favour, and he should get a strong pace which suits his strong-travelling/idle late on style.
Big performance expected
Another fascinating top-class contender is Fox Norton, who was successful four times in 2016/17, including the Melling Chase at Aintree and Boylesports Champion Chase at Punchestown. He wasn't himself when pulled up in a King George experiment the following season, but shaped as if retaining all his ability after 13 months off with injury when seven lengths second (without his usual hood) to superstar Altior in the Clarence House Chase here last time. He stays this longer trip so should have no issues with the step back up in distance and a big performance is expected, with his usual headgear likely to return.
Aso has taken his form to a higher level in two starts this season, landing a competitive handicap at Newbury (from a BHA mark of 150, by 13 lengths from Touch Kick) in November. He then made light of an 8 lb rise in the weights when following up in a seven-runner Grade 3 handicap at Cheltenham (by two lengths from subsequent winner Happy Diva) last time. He was third in the 2017 Ryanair and will presumably be aimed at that race again in the spring, but this looks a good calling point, and he is likely to run well once more despite the step back up in grade.
Politologue gave 6 lb to Charbel when beating him here in November, and, with that form franked since, he edges a narrow verdict ahead of Waiting Patiently and Fox Norton. Waiting Patiently put in a career-best when winning this race 12 months ago, but he may lack a little for match practice after being parted from jockey Brian Hughes at a relatively early stage of the King George in December, while Fox Norton wasn't far off his best when chasing home Altior here last month and will be a big threat if improving for the outing. Aso, Charbel and Cyrname are no back numbers, either, in what looks a terrific renewal.
Back Politologue in Saturday's Betfair Ascot Chase